The National Archives: Day Three

Last day at National Archives in Kew. I’ve managed to look at everything I wanted to, and more besides.

I started off with looking at the Operational Record Books for 10 and 35 Squadrons RAF while Sergeant Francis Compton was serving with them. The ORB’s for each Squadron list what missions the Squadron flew on each night, which crews went, and what happened to them – what aircraft they were flying, when they took off, what bombload they carried, what they saw on the target, when they dropped their bombs, if they were engaged by any enemy aircraft, flak or searchlights, and if any damage was experienced. I don’t want to pre-empt what I’m going to write, but Francis Compton had a short but eventful flying career.

I managed to copy some very interesting documents about V Force, a clandestine guerilla force fighting in Burma. Major Maurice Budd won a Military Cross. I found the minutes of a conference, chaired by Bill Slim, the commander of the 14th Army in Burma, about the organisation of V Force. I also have copies of documents that show the war establishment of V Force – how many men and officers, and in particular they show how V Force was a mixed British and Indian unit, with some Indian officers commanding white troops, and british soldiers serving alongside Burmese and Indian men. Theres also a very useful official history document about the activities of V Force, written shortly after the war, with a view to learning lessons – possibly fearing a war against communists in the jungles of the Far East.

Finally, I discovered that Captain Bernard Brown, the Medical Officer who won a Military Cross in North Africa with an armoured unit in 1942. I originally thought that he then went to serve at a Base Hospital in Egypt, and from there back to serve as a Medical Officer with the 1st Royal Welch Regiment, where he was killed in early 1945. Not only have I found out that he died in his sleep of natural causes, for some unknown reason he left the 1st Royal Welch in September 1944, went to serve with the 1/7th Battalion of the Queens Regiment for less than a week – why, their war diary does not say, and it doesn’t say where he went to. Very strange indeed.

So all in all, a very interesting and useful trip. I’ve got plenty of information now to write some sample chapters – I’m thinking about CPO Reg Ellingworth, Major Robert Easton and Flight Lieutenant John Coghlan. I’ve also got lots of useful stuff about Lieutenant-Commander William Hussey, Major Maurice Budd, and Sergeant Francis Compton. There will probably be a few more trips to Kew before I’ve finished writing the book, but I’ve got enough now to get started on a few sample chapters, and the basis for a few more.

I do fear about the future for the National Archives, however. Since I’ve been going there they have already closed on Mondays and cut their opening hours on other days. Their digitisation programme for putting documents online has also been drastrically curtailed, with only third parties like Ancestry and FindMyPast making records available on the web. And with the current Government’s philistine and ideological desire to slash public spending at any price, who knows what draconian measures might happen?

Despite its penchant for Political Correctness, I’ve got a real soft spot for Kew. Even though it tends to put on talks about things like ‘the history of reducing the Carbon footprint of bisexual ethnic minorities’, I think its such an amazing place and an amazing resource. I know a lot of  ‘serious researchers’ sniffed when they moved the Family Research Centre to Kew, but I think it works – theres something very refreshing about professors and historians rubbing shoulders with Mrs Jones studying her family tree – the two should go together.

Now, off to start transcribing some 300+ digital images of documents!



Filed under out and about, portsmouth heroes, World War Two

10 responses to “The National Archives: Day Three

  1. Sir- While it may not be convenient, given the rather large body of water between us (“the pond”), I would like to offer my services as proof reader, and indeed, in any manner you see fit. Since I have a lot of time on my hands (about 25 hours a day), I should be available any time you would need. If you would like to chat, you can email me (I assume you can see my address; otherwise, I can post it here – I get enough spam as is, a little more won’t hurt). Otherwise, good luck with your endeavour, and whatever you do, EMPHASISE THE HURRICANES IN THE RAF!!! (Sorry, I love the Hurricanes, and feel they get short shrift by the pro-Spitfire lobby.) And thank you for all you’ve written so far, and in advance for all you will write in the future.

    • James Daly

      Hi John, its very kind of you to offer to proof read, and I’m sure I will take you up on it when I’ve got something substantive for you to have a look at.

  2. x

    I will admit that I am not fan of genealogy. Sorry.

    I did a second module year on heritage; mainly because of maritime and IT interests. But after that 12 weeks I was less sure of my position on the masses and how they see their history.

    And yes there was a distinct PC slant to the course. I admit to buying two books by Patrick Wright (but only in paperback.)

    For my essay I wrote about the National Trust. I had to include themes of the changing heritage market and how the Trust was trying to reach minorities. When a few months later a report came out saying the money the Trust had spent trying to reach minorities I laughed my backside off. It was a poor choice of module as I don’t really like historiography; smacks of talks about talks!

    Glad the trip has proved productive. It must be wonderful having sufficient interest in a subject that it motivates you to write.

  3. x


    Well said.

    • James Daly

      I’m glad John Coghlan’s story is such an amazing one, because he flew Hurricanes. Hopefully writing about him will help buck the publics idea that Fighter Command = Spitfires

      • x

        Yes Spitfires and heritage. The City museum next door in Stoke is struggling to find the 50k to refurbish its post war example which for years was in a woeful state. Yet you would think in this 70th anniversary year, even in the current financial environment, would be little problem.

        (There is a statue of the great man outside the museum. And there are several buildings, road and streets named after him too. He was born in a house a few miles away from where I sit now.)

  4. Vivian Rodrigues

    Hi. James
    Will you share what you have of. Vforce. Particuarly names from three establishment list and
    Learning text. I am compiling three list com Army in Burma Reserve of Officers and what you have discoverd will be com help.
    Vivian Rodrigues

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